Connecticut Witch Trials 101, Part 1 – Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast
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This is Part 1 of Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast’s Connecticut Witch Trials 101 series. Take in this informative New England colonial history conversation with your cohosts and accused witch descendants, writer and podcast producer, Joshua Hutchinson and End Witch Hunts President and people connector extraordinaire, Sarah Jack. Enjoy the new segment, “Minute with Mary” by Mary Bingham, accused witch descendant, writer and researcher. This episode begins the story of Connecticut’s known witch trial victims with only fact backed, trustworthy research and sources. Take advantage of the expansive bibliography, and do some educational reading. Dig into the research with us. This series has been created with thoughtful inquiry and consideration of historian expertise, historic record and available archived material. How do we know what we know? We connect past witch trials to today’s witchcraft fear with a discussion answering our advocacy questions: Why do we witch hunt? How do we witch hunt? How do we stop hunting witches?
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[00:00:00] Josh Hutchinson: Welcome to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast. I'm Josh Hutchinson. Sarah Jack: And I'm Sarah Jack. Josh Hutchinson: This is part one of our Connecticut Witch Trials 101 series. Sarah Jack: This series will serve as an introduction to witch-hunting in Connecticut. Josh Hutchinson: Enjoy. Sarah Jack: You're gonna learn and be informed on the history. Josh Hutchinson: Witch trials in Connecticut occurred between 1647 and 1697. Sarah Jack: 45 individuals were accused. Josh Hutchinson: 34 were indicted. Sarah Jack: 11 executed. Josh Hutchinson: The first execution occurred [00:01:00] May 26th, 1647 when Alice Young of Windsor was hanged in Hartford. Sarah Jack: Mary Barnes was the last to be hanged, January 25th, 1663. Josh Hutchinson: Though the last execution occurred in 1663, they still had trials until 1697. Sarah Jack: The last indicted and arrested were mother and daughter Winifred Benham, Sr. And 13 year old Winifred Benham, Jr. Josh Hutchinson: We'll bring you more on all of these individuals as the series goes on. We've carefully researched these episodes and going to share with you now the sources that we've been using in compiling this information. The Devil In the Shape of A Woman by Carol F. Karlsen. Entertaining Satan by John [00:02:00] Demos. The Devil's Dominion by Richard Godbeer. Witchcraft Myths in American Culture by Marion Gibson. Witch-Hunting in Seventeenth-Century New England by David D. Hall. Before Salem by Richard S. Ross III. Detestable and Wicked Arts by Paul B. Moyer. Escaping Salem by Richard Godbeer. Prospero's America by Walter Woodward. Records of the Particular Court of Connecticut, 1639 to 1663. The Samuel Wyllys Papers. The Matthew Grant Diary. John Winthrop, Sr's Journals, Volume One. John Winthrop Sr's Journal, Volume Two. "Between God and Satan," an article by Dr. Katherine Hermes and Beth [00:03:00] Caruso. John Winthrop, Jr's Medical Records. We'll have links to all of these in the show description. Sarah Jack: The facts that we talk about are from the primary sources. Josh Hutchinson: Yes. In each segment we'll be presenting to you how we know what we know. Sarah Jack: A primary source is a record or writing from the era giving us details of the events. Josh Hutchinson: Yes, we'll be sharing a number of primary and secondary sources for you to do your own research, if you want to carry things further from what you hear in these episodes. We do recommend all of these books that we're using. Sarah Jack: These authors analyze primary sources and interpreted what was happening in [00:04:00] these colonies based on those, but it is young research, and there's limited information. Maybe more information will reveal itself. That's what my hope is, that we find more records, that when you or any one of us take another look at some of these records, maybe we see it, maybe we see something that wasn't noticed before. Josh Hutchinson: Do we want to give all the victims a name and the story that they deserve? Sarah Jack: We're still searching for the names of many of the women like Goody Bassett. We wanna find your name. We can track her story, but we don't know her first name. We don't know her maiden name. We want to know. Josh Hutchinson: In between 1647 and 1663, 15 people were hanged for witchcraft in just Massachusetts and Connecticut alone. Sarah Jack: That's a really important fact. [00:05:00] 15. Josh Hutchinson: 15, and 11 of them were hanged in Connecticut. So Connecticut was the deadliest state for witchcraft accusations. I want to emphasize that there were a lot of victims, especially and say that there's, this is substantive, this is meaty. There were a lot of people, and we're gonna talk more about each one as time goes on. So don't worry that we're only giving your ancestor a brief gloss over. We will bring more detail to them. You don't have to remember every fact that you hear tonight. The transcript is available now, and we will be also converting this episode into a blog post. So you'll have [00:06:00] access to the names again, and then we'll speak to them more over the next two months. And now we'd like to read for you a document called Grounds for Examination of a Witch believed to have been written by Connecticut Deputy Governor William Jones. Grounds for Examination of a Witch. Number one, notorious defamation by the common report of the people a ground of suspicion. Sarah Jack: Second ground for strict examination. If a fellow witch gave testimony on his examination or death that such a person is a witch, but this is not sufficient for conviction or condemnation. Josh Hutchinson: Three, if after cursing there follows death or at least mischief to the party. Sarah Jack: If after quarreling or threatening, a present [00:07:00] mischief doth follow, for the party's devilishly disposed after cursing do use threatenings, and that also is a great presumption against them. Josh Hutchinson: If the party suspected be the son or daughter, the servant or familiar friend, near neighbors, or old companion of a known or convicted witch, this also is a presumption, for witchcraft is an art that may be learned and conveyed from man to man, and oft it falleth out that a witch dying leaveth some of the aforesaid heirs of her witchcraft. Sarah Jack: Six, if the party suspected have the devil's mark, for its thought when the devil maketh this covenant with them, he always leaves his mark behind him to know them for his own. That is, if no evident reason in nature can be given for such mark. Josh Hutchinson: [00:08:00] Seven. Lastly, if the party examined be unconstant and contrary to himself in his answers this much for examination which usually is by question and sometimes by torture upon [strong and great presumption]. The first person known to have been tried for witchcraft in Connecticut was Alice Young. We know this from three sources, John Winthrop, Sr's journals, Matthew Grant's Diary, and John Winthrop, Jr's medical papers. John Winthrop Sr. wrote that "one blank of Windsor arraigned and executed at Hartford for a Witch." Matthew Grant in his diary wrote, "May 26th, 47, Alice Young was Hanged." Winthrop Jr. wrote on the back of a medical record of John Young, [00:09:00] "his wife was hanged for witch at Connecticut." One theory of why Alice was accused was this epidemic that went through Windsor in 47. Sarah Jack: Since those entries are all we have to go on. Josh Hutchinson: Those entries, and then looking at the records from Windsor, you can see that a lot of people died that year from some epidemic. Several Windsor residents were killed in the epidemic, including children of many prominent citizens. Sarah Jack: One who died was Priscilla Thornton. Josh Hutchinson: She was the daughter of a tanner named Thomas Thornton, who lived next door to John and Alice Young. Sarah Jack: After this life changing event the community [00:10:00] went through, he became a minister. Josh Hutchinson: Cotton Mather later published Thomas Thornton's account of Priscilla's death. First published it in his appendix for a reprinting of James Janeway's, A Token for Children of New England in 1700, and then again in his own book, Magnolia Christi Americana. From 1648 through 1654, another six individuals were executed for witchcraft in Connecticut. They were Mary Johnson, Goodwife Bassett, Joan and John Carrington, Goodwife Knapp, and Lydia Gilbert. Mary Johnson of Wethersfield was a servant who was accused of witchcraft in 1648 and was pressured by Reverend Samuel Stone to confess. [00:11:00] When she eventually did, she said that she was discontented and asked a devil to come and do chores for her. This devil cleared her hearth and drove hogs out of her master's field. Johnson also confessed to murdering a child and to "uncleanness" with men and devils. She was not known to have any heirs when the accusation was lodged and is not known to have been pregnant. She was convicted December 7th, 1648, and hanged in Hartford shortly after. Sarah Jack: And Cotton Mather gave us some of this information in his account, Memorable Providences Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions in 1689. Josh Hutchinson: The reality of the situation is we don't have much to go on other than [00:12:00] Cotton Mather. There's a court record that says, "the jury finds the bill of indictment against Mary Johnson that by her own confession she is guilty of familiarity with the devil. December 7th, 1648," one thing from Connecticut Colonial Records, what Cotton said, and then something in the collections of the Connecticut Historical Society. And we'll have links to where you can find all of those online in the show notes. Sarah Jack: Now we're gonna talk about the first couple that was arrested and hanged, Joan and John Carrington of Weathersfield. Josh Hutchinson: John Carrington came to Boston in 1635 with his wife, Mary. Both were said to be 33 years old. They're next heard from in Wethersfield in 1643. Little is actually known about the trial. The [00:13:00] indictment only states that the Carringtons had entertained familiarity with Satan, the great enemy of God and mankind, and by his help done works above the course of nature. Sarah Jack: It's in March of 1651 that he's convicted for works above the course of nature. Josh Hutchinson: This indictment's also in the collections of the Connecticut Historical Society. " A particular court in Hartford upon the trial of John Carrington and his wife 20th February, 1650 [which translates to 1651] Magistrates, Edward Hopkins, Esquire, Governor John Haynes, Esquire. Deputy Mr. Wells, Mr. Wolcott, Mr. Webster, Mr. Cullick, Mr. Clarke. John Carrington thou art [00:14:00] indicted by the name of John Carrington of Wethersfield carpenter, that not having the fear of God before thine eyes thou hast entertained familiarity with Satan the great enemy of God and mankind and by his help hast done works above the course of nature for which both according to the law of God and of the established law of this Commonwealth Dow deserves to die. The jury finds this indictment against John Carrington, March 6th, 1650/51. Joan Carrington thou art indicted by the name of Joan Carrington the wife of John Carrington that not having the fear of God before thine eyes thou hast entertained familiarity with Satan the great enemy of God and mankind and by his help hast done works above the course of nature for which both according to the laws of God and the established law of this commonwealth thou deservest to die.[00:15:00] The jury finds this indictment against Joan Carrington March 6, 1650/51." So that's how we know he's a carpenter. Sarah Jack: From what we can know by record, John likely had a son, John, with his first wife Mary. We learn about that in Entertaining Satan. Joan had no sons. Josh Hutchinson: Goodwife Bassett of Stratford was tried and executed in 1651. We know a little about her, but we don't know her first name. Sarah Jack: Earlier we talked about the definite connection that Thomas Thornton's family were neighbors of the John Young family, but there's also a possible connection to Bassett and her husband. Thomas arrived in Boston on the ship Christian in 1635. They settled in Dorchester, Massachusetts while Thomas Thornton lived there. [00:16:00] Then the Bassetts lived in Windsor at the same time as the Thorntons. In 1650, Thomas Thornton moved his family to Stratford, so did the Bassetts. Thornton was elected Stratford's deputy to the General Court in 1651, the year Bassett was hanged. Josh Hutchinson: We know about Goody Bassett's execution largely through a subsequent lawsuit, where Mary Staples claimed to have been defamed as a witch through a chain of events that began with the execution of Goody Bassett and led to the execution of Goody Knapp and the suspicion of Mary Staples. And this is not the last that we'll hear about Goody Knapp or Mary Staples. Sarah Jack: We have some specific statements on trial record. "The governor, Mr. Cullick, and Mr. Clarke are desired to go down to Stratford to keep court [00:17:00] upon the trial of Goody Bassett for her life. And if the governor cannot go, then Mr. Wells is to go in his room. May 15th, 1651." In the Mary Staples defamation suit, Lucy Pell's testimony says, "Goodwife Bassett, when she was condemned, said there was another Witch in Fairfield that held her head full high." You can find out more about Goody Bassett and her connection with Thornton in "Between God and Satan" by friends of the show Dr. Katherine Hermes and Beth Caruso. Josh Hutchinson: Nobody has pinpointed Goodwife Bassett's first name. Sarah Jack: Here's a little more on Goody Knapp of Fairfield. Was her head held high? She was executed in 1653. The information found is in this Mary Staples defamation suit. Josh Hutchinson: The reason Mary Staples herself was accused of witchcraft was that following the execution [00:18:00] of Goodwife Knapp, Staples disputed the presence of teats on Goodwife Knapp's body. Roger Ludlow then claimed that Goodwife Knapp had told him that Mary Staples was a witch before she had been killed. The evidence indicates that Knapp actually remained silent throughout the proceedings, despite the pressure to confess and name names. Sarah Jack: We know about this due to the New Haven Town Records. Josh Hutchinson: Lydia Gilbert of Windsor was executed in 1654. Sarah Jack: She was blamed for the misfiring of a gun during a militia exercise, which killed Henry Stiles. Josh Hutchinson: She was indicted three years after the fatal accident. Sarah Jack: That indictment was November 25th, 1654. Josh Hutchinson: How do we know what we know about Lydia Gilbert? [00:19:00] We've read of her in several books. And those books trace their information to the Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society and The History of Ancient Windsor by Henry R. Stiles. We'll have links to those. Sarah Jack: And she, along with Alice Young, have a memorial brick in Windsor. Josh Hutchinson: A simple brick donated by a public citizen in a space where you can purchase memorial bricks. Nothing official, no details available for anyone stepping over her brick. She needs more. They all do. Following the first seven accusations and executions for witchcraft in Connecticut and New Haven colonies, John [00:20:00] Winthrop Jr. started to become involved in witchcraft trials in the mid 1650s and prevented executions from happening until he left to get the charter for the colony of Connecticut from the government in London. So the years 1655 to 1661 are relatively peaceful years in the annals of witch-hunting in Connecticut. John was the son of Massachusetts, governor John Winthrop Sr., The famous immigrant who wrote about the City on the Hill. Sarah Jack: His expertise was in medicine, alchemy, science, and skepticism. Josh Hutchinson: He practiced what was considered to be Christian alchemy, believing that the [00:21:00] two sets of beliefs were not at odds with each other but actually complimentary. Sarah Jack: He was first involved in a witchcraft case in 1655. Josh Hutchinson: Once he got involved, there were no more executions for a while. Sarah Jack: But there were still accusations and trials. Josh Hutchinson: Elizabeth Godman of New Haven was brought to court on witchcraft accusations in 1653 and 1655, but was not executed. In 1653, the court told her to behave herself and mind her own business. In 1655, she was examined August 7th, released from jail September 4th, but ordered to return to court in October, which she did on October 17th. Again she was warned to behave, and this time she was ordered to pay a 50 pound [00:22:00] bond for her good behavior, which she paid on January 1, 1656. Sarah Jack: John Winthrop, Jr. may have had influence over this case. A man wrote to Winthrop Junior about efforts to identify the disease affecting Mary Bishop, Elizabeth Brewster, and Margaret Lamberton. Josh Hutchinson: Goodwife Bailey and Nicholas Bailey of New Haven were banished for witchcraft in 1655. They were told to leave on July 3rd, but they dragged their feet and got called to court again August 7th, September 4th and October 2nd. The first two of those dates, August 7th and September 4th, they were in court with Elizabeth Godman. After the last of their courtroom visits, they moved from the New Haven colony to the Connecticut [00:23:00] colony. Sarah Jack: John Winthrop, Jr. was the governor of Connecticut Colony from 1657 to 1658 and 1659 through 1676. Josh Hutchinson: William Meaker of New Haven sued Thomas Mulliner for slander in 1657 and won. Meaker was accused of the witching Mulliner's hogs. Sarah Jack: Elizabeth Garlick accused East Hampton 1658. Winthrop's first official witch trial role. Garlick was accused of bewitching Betty Howell to death. Betty was daughter of Lion Gardiner, leading citizen of the town. In May 1658, Elizabeth Garlick was the first person acquitted of witchcraft in Connecticut. Josh Hutchinson: In 1659, an unknown person of Saybrook was indicted for witchcraft. Sarah Jack: Goodwife Palmer, likely [00:24:00] Katherine Palmer, of Wethersfield found herself in court and in accusations on several dates. She was first arrested for witchcraft in 1648, following a complaint by John Robbins. Josh Hutchinson: In 1648, John Robbins complained about her for some reason, and she went to court. In 1660, the Robbins family got sick, actually late 1659 into early 1660. Mrs. Robbins, their son, and then John Robbins all died in a few months. And John had allegedly, according to their daughter, written out a complaint against Katherine Palmer outlining his suspicions of her before he died. So this is a second time that he's [00:25:00] accusing her of causing their problems. But the daughter admitted that the note that he wrote could not be found. It came back up in 1662, because Rebecca Greensmith said, "oh yeah, Goody Palmer is one of these people that attends Christmas parties with us." So after 1662, she leaves to Newport, Rhode Island with her husband Henry. Most likely they did. In 1667 in Connecticut, there was another complaint against her for witchcraft along with Katherine Harrison, but she was in Rhode Island, so nothing happened to her, Palmer that is. And then in 1672 in Newport, Rhode Island that Henry Palmer, who may be the same [00:26:00] Henry Palmer sued someone for defamation against his wife. Sarah Jack: And would Katherine Palmer and Katherine Harrison have known each other? Josh Hutchinson: Yes, they were both seen at the bedside of John Robbins in 1660. So Katherine Harrison, she apparently was also suspected for some years before her husband died and they came after her. Sarah Jack: Katherine Palmer's story here is intriguing. Harrison's is one of the other ones that has lots of animosity in it. So we had a few years of acquittals and then in 1661, Winthrop Junior left for London in the summer to obtain the charter for Connecticut Colony. Josh Hutchinson: Margaret [00:27:00] Jennings and Nicholas Jennings of Saybrook were accused the same year that Winthrop left. They had initially been examined in June 1659 but were not indicted until September 5th, 1661, after Winthrop had left. Fortunately, the jury that delivered a verdict on October 9th was undecided, and the Jennings were freed. How do we know what we know about all these things? We have medical records, journals, court records, and a hundred plus years of secondary writings. While Winthrop Jr. was in London attempting to acquire a new charter to make the colony of Connecticut official, the Hartford Witch Panic broke out. Captain [00:28:00] John Mason stood in as governor while Winthrop was away, and with Mason serving in that role, there were 13 trials, two certain executions, two probable executions, and about half a dozen escapes, in the years 1662 to 1665. Sarah Jack: Elizabeth Kelly, eight years old, accused Goody Ayers. Then William Ayers then accused Rebecca Greensmith. Josh Hutchinson: Elizabeth Kelly was a young girl who took mysteriously ill and eventually succumbed to her condition. An autopsy was ordered. With the leading medical expert, Winthrop Jr., out of the colony, a physician named Bray Rossiter was called in to perform the autopsy on the body of Elizabeth Kelly. He arrived several [00:29:00] days after her death, examined her body at the graveside, and declared that she had been killed using supernatural means. But what he really found and describes in the autopsy were common signs of decomposition. Sarah Jack: Ann Cole, referred to as a young woman and as being diabolically possessed, named Elizabeth Seager and Rebecca Greensmith as her tormentors. Josh Hutchinson: One important question that we'll seek to answer in a future episode is, was Ann Cole possessed or was she bewitched? There's important difference between the two relating to accusations of witchcraft. Was it diabolical possession or was there one of Satan's human servants [00:30:00] behind her pains? During the Hartford Witch Panic, Mary and Andrew Sanford were also accused of witchcraft. Mary was tried with her husband on June 6th, 1662. The jury was undecided about both cases. On June 13th, Mary was indicted individually and was convicted and executed. Sarah Jack: Andrew is acquitted and freed. Josh Hutchinson: While Mary stands trial again and is hanged. Where's the justice in that one? She would've tempted him into witchcraft somehow using her diabolical powers, because of course she's the woman, the woman's the weaker vessel. Sarah Jack: Now we're to the second couple that was indicted and executed, Rebecca Greensmith and Nathaniel [00:31:00] Greensmith. Rebecca accused her husband Nathaniel in her confession. Josh Hutchinson: One of the things that she confessed to was having an illegitimate Christmas party. Christmas was outlawed by the Puritans, who did not fancy any holidays except for what was directly ordered by the Bible. And Christmas was seen as just an excuse for frivolity that had nothing to do with serving and worshiping God. Now, Rebecca, when she confessed, she did give a guest list of attendees at this Christmas party, which we'll have more about in an upcoming episode focused on the Hartford Witch Panic. The guest list included Elizabeth Seager, Mary Sanford, Judith Ayers, James Wakeley, Goodwife [00:32:00] Grant, Goodwife Palmer, and Judith Varlet. Judith Varlet was the daughter of a Captain Casper Varlet, who, before the English took Connecticut, had like a trading post outside of where, what became Hartford. And so he was pretty high ranking guy and stayed there after the English came, but the English were so scared of the Dutch, that may have influenced what happens to his daughter Judith after he died. They accused her, but she was the sister-in-law of that Governor Peter Stuyvesant, and she married his nephew. Sarah Jack: Elizabeth and John Blackleach were an accused couple. John was once brought to court for his [00:33:00] contemptuous expressions against several persons in authority. John was a well-to-do merchant. He was the constable for Hartford's North Side. They had 11 children. John sued his accusers for slander. Josh Hutchinson: The couple were both accused of bewitching a sow, but they fought back against their accusers by suing them for slander, and so their case was basically neutralized. He was a very wealthy man and powerful, and not somebody to trifle with. Sarah Jack: Is he the same John Blackleach, accuser of Katherine Harrison? Josh Hutchinson: He went to Hadley or wrote to someone in Hadley and got them to testify against Katherine Harrison, because they had formerly lived in Wethersfield. These people that he [00:34:00] contacts in Hadley had moved. So he's getting them to testify. Sarah Jack: It's very fortunate that so many from that party were able to escape execution. Josh Hutchinson: And unfortunately, Mary Barnes was not one of those people. Sarah Jack: She was the last person executed for witchcraft in Connecticut on January 25th, 1663. Josh Hutchinson: Elizabeth Seager was acquitted of witchcraft twice in 1663, in January and in June. Sarah Jack: She was convicted at the third trial on June 26th, 1665. Josh Hutchinson: Governor Winthrop Jr. asked the court to delay the sentencing. Sarah Jack: In 1666, the verdict was overturned. Josh Hutchinson: You've heard her on the show before. Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project co-founder Mary Louise Bingham [00:35:00] is joining us today to share with you a new weekly segment, Minute with Mary. And now here she is with a report on the Sanford family and John Winthrop Jr. Sarah Jack: Mary has been a great part of this team, because she is able to actively look at these stories, search records, and collect information on these specific individuals, what we can find. She's the one who knows what we know. Josh Hutchinson: Mary goes back to the primary sources and often uses sources that aren't cited in the major books about the Connecticut Witch Trials or New England witch trials in general, and brings us some wonderful information. You're going to really enjoy what she has to share about John Winthrop, Jr. and these patients [00:36:00] that he was treating. Sarah Jack: And I would like to note, you've heard us ask for letters to legislators on behalf of the exoneration efforts. Mary was the first. She's the first one that reached out to the legislators by letters. Josh Hutchinson: Without further ado, here's Mary. Mary Bingham: Mary Sanford was about 33 years old when she first received medical treatment from John Winthrop, Jr. in early March of 1656/57. After having the opportunity to decipher this document, which does not exist in its entirety on microfilm, this document is at the Massachusetts Historical Society and is part of John Winthrop, Jr's Medical Journals, I discovered that Mary was treated with rock salt, iron ore, and saltpeter. Mary's condition was extremely painful and too graphic to [00:37:00] detail here. However, his treatment with at least these three medicines would probably have cleansed her internally, easing a nasty skin condition while reducing inflammation. John Winthrop Jr. also treated at least four of the five Sanford children between January 1656 and 57 and April of 1659. These records prove that Governor Winthrop knew this family intimately. We can only imagine the anguish he felt upon his return to Connecticut after receiving the charter from London to find that Mary was hanged for the capital crime of witchcraft and that her husband Andrew was indicted and this was the crime that they did not commit. The other reason that this document is so important is that [00:38:00] it is the only document in existence that actually lists the ages of all five of the Sanford children. So it says that Andrew, their eldest son, was born about 1643. Mary was born about 1646. And Elizabeth was born about 1648. Elizabeth is the one we don't know whether or not he treated, because she died young. So there's gonna be more research done on her. And then there was Ezekiel, who was born about 1656. And then Thomas, their youngest, was born about 1658. And no doubt that Andrew and Mary, the two oldest children, would have remembered this traumatic event in their lives. And we don't know about Ezekiel or Thomas, [00:39:00] how it may have affected them, because sadly they would not have remembered their mother, which is just so incredibly sad to me and also the fact that Mary was hanged left this household without a woman. And it was a detriment to the family. They needed the woman in the house to be able to survive, which is why he had to remarry rather quickly. That was a detriment to their family to be left without someone to run the household. Josh Hutchinson: Trials continued to be held after the Hartford Witch Panic. Between 1666 and 1691, several were tried. Sarah Jack: The trials went on. Josh Hutchinson: The trials did go on in spite of the return of John Winthrop, Jr. People were taken to court, people were accused. There were informal accusations that [00:40:00] led to slander suits. There were also very formal accusations that led to condemnation, and one person was in fact convicted in this period. In 1667, William Graves of Stanford was indicted, but not convicted. Sarah Jack: One of the ways that accused witches sought justice for themselves was by filing slander and defamation suits. Hannah Griswold of Saybrook did so in 1667. Josh Hutchinson: Katherine Harrison of Wethersfield was accused of witchcraft in 1668. She was possibly the daughter or niece of the executed Lydia Gilbert, possibly related, in her own words, as a cousin [00:41:00] of John, Jonathan, and Josiah Gilbert. Her case is often cited as a landmark in New England legal history. In future episodes, we will discuss the legal ramifications. She was convicted in 1668, but released in 1669 after a committee of ministers was requested to review the case and come up with their advice, and they decided that there was not sufficient evidence against her, because testimony was allowed to come in from single witnesses, not the two witnesses required by biblical law. Sarah Jack: In Stanford in 1669, we had a spousal quarrel. [00:42:00] Sarah Dibble accused her husband Zachary of abuse. He in turn accused her of witchcraft. The court rejected his claim. Josh Hutchinson: In 1673, Edward Messenger sued Edward Bartlett for defaming his wife, possibly named Katherine. Bartlett had said Messenger's wife was an old witch or whore or words to the same purpose, and that comes straight from Connecticut Colonial Private Records, County Court Records, and that's as much as we know. Sarah Jack: In 1692, we have Katherine Branch having fits. She was a servant in the home of Mr. Daniel and Mrs. Abigail Wescot, whose daughter Joanna had fits years earlier. Sarah Bates was [00:43:00] the midwife practicing medicine. The Wescots consulted her about Katherine Branch. Josh Hutchinson: In Katherine Branch's fits, she was frequently requested to name her tormentors, and she did name several women, beginning with Elizabeth Clawson and Mercy Disborough Elizabeth Clawson and her husband, Stephen, lived in Stamford near the Wescots, who had previously suspected her of bewitching their daughter, Joanna, after an argument over the weight of some flax. Sarah Jack: Mercy Disborough and her husband lived in Compo, within the boundaries of Fairfield. Josh Hutchinson: Both women were subjected to the water test, also known as the swimming test, to see if they would sink and prove their innocence or float and prove their guilt. Both evidently floated. Clawson was described as floating like a cork [00:44:00] in the water, being buoyant, and she would not sink even after a bystander pushed her underwater, she bobbed back up to the surface. Sarah Jack: What an experience. Clawson and Disborough were tried together on September 14th, 1692. Josh Hutchinson: The jury was undecided, so the magistrates decided to consult ministers and then reconvene court in October. Sarah Jack: The ministers found cause to believe in the women's innocence. The swimming test is unlawful and sinful. And when you read The Grounds of Examining a Witch, the commentary following the stated grounds does refer to water testing as a bad practice. The minister said that supposed Witch marks must be examined by able physicians. In [00:45:00] other cases you hear of women examining women for the witches marks. The ministers believed that Kate Branch could possibly have been counterfeiting her fits, and they also believed that it's hard to attribute strange accidents to these two accused women. Josh Hutchinson: This time around, Clawson was acquitted but Disborough was convicted and sentenced to hang. Sarah Jack: In 1693, Mercy Disborough was reprieved by the magistrates, because the jury had been altered between the September and October court sessions, with a new man taking the place of one who was away in New York. "One man altered the jury is altered." Josh Hutchinson: Goodwife Miller had brothers on the other side of the border in New York, and she ran away to them. Sarah Jack: Next Mary Staples had her charges dropped. Her daughter, Mary Harvey, had her charges dropped. And her [00:46:00] granddaughter, Hannah Harvey, had her charges dropped. Josh Hutchinson: Hugh Crosia of Fairfield was accused in 1693, but the grand jury refused to indict him. And now we turn our attention to the final two trials, those of Winifred Benham Senior in Winifred Benham Jr. in 1697. Sarah Jack: These final trials are my family connection. Josh Hutchinson: Winifred King Benham, Sr., was the first to have been accused out of this pair. She was first accused in 1692, brought back in 1693, and then brought back a third time in 1697 Sarah Jack: Her mother was Mary King Hale, an accused witch in Boston. Josh Hutchinson: Winifred Benham Jr. ,who was 13 years old in 1697, was also accused.[00:47:00] Winfred Benham, Sr.'s mother and daughter were both accused of witchcraft, as well as she, making three generations of women to face these charges. Sarah Jack: They survived. They uprooted from the town they helped found, Wallingford, Connecticut, and fled to Staten Island. Right now in the town of Wallingford, there's no plaque or recognition of her or her daughter, but you can find them on a beer label. Josh Hutchinson: Yes, they do still have a legacy and are remembered, but only vaguely by residents of their town of Wallingford. You can go to town and get a beer called The Witch of Wallingford Ale. Even though the final trial occurred in 1697, there were still accusations made in the 18th century.[00:48:00] Sarah Jack: Sarah Clother and Goodwife Brown accused by Bethia Taylor of Colchester, 1713. Josh Hutchinson: Sarah Spencer was accused by Elizabeth Ackley in 1724. In that case, the court considered subjecting Ackley to a sanity test. Sarah Jack: There is a record showing that an Elizabeth Gould of Guilford sued Benjamin Chittenden for defamation, being accused as a witch in 1742. Josh Hutchinson: 1742. That's 95 years after the first trial for witchcraft. Connecticut still had these accusations going on, people willing to go to court over them. In 1750, when Connecticut's laws were reconstituted, the act [00:49:00] prohibiting witchcraft was dropped and not rewritten. Sarah Jack: The length is a century, but there's so little detail, a hundred years of lives navigating these accusations and these misfortunes and these devastations and these trials. Josh Hutchinson: We've brought to you today the names of 49 individuals who were accused of witchcraft, and those are just the ones that we know about. We know that we're missing many records from many of these trials and accusations. We're hoping that records will continue to be found as discoveries are continuing to be made here in the 21st century. Sarah Jack: I think it really speaks to that whole thought of hysteria. Are we gonna say that this colony was in a state of hysteria off and on constantly for a hundred years? [00:50:00] Or was this a mentality and a behavior and the results? It really puts the Salem notoriety in perspective. Some of this overlaps. It just shows a continuation of people getting pulled in and accused of covenanting with the devil, over and over. Josh Hutchinson: Yes, and if you were to remove the Salem Witch Trials from the equation, Connecticut had far more witchcraft accusations, trials, and executions than any other colony, including Massachusetts. Connecticut from 1647 to 1663 was by far the deadliest colony for witchcraft accusations, and it's really thanks to people like [00:51:00] Reverend Gershom Bulkeley and Governor John Winthrop, Jr., who made efforts to bring the witch trials to a stop, bring the killings to a stop. Sarah Jack: When you think back to that era, this was like everyday life. This was happening annually. Your neighbor, your relative, somebody you knew, maybe you're in court accusing. It was just a commonplace behavior, and yet we're just starting to understand what it was all about. What was the crime? Who was accused? Why were they accused? Who was all involved? How were they executed? It's just amazing to me that it was woven so much into the fabric of the history and we're just now getting a look at it. Josh Hutchinson: Yes, and it's easy to [00:52:00] dismiss witch trials as early modern superstition. It's harder to confront the actual facts of the witch trials, why they happened and what happened in them, which is far more complicated, and which we'll be covering as we have in previous episodes. We'll continue to cover that in depth in this 101 series and other future episodes. Sarah Jack: Take a look at the bibliography now. Order some of these books, and start reading. You'll have a lot to think about, and you'll have a better concept and be ready to have conversations with your circle of influence. Josh Hutchinson: And now, we'd like to talk to you about the efforts to clear the names of those accused of witchcraft in Connecticut. Exoneration efforts began back [00:53:00] in 2005, when state historian Walter Woodward gave a presentation about the Connecticut Witch Trials. A number of people in the audience banded together to press for getting their names cleared. After the group that formed in 2005 began to operate, friend of the show Tony Griego was involved and wrote to the government in England to the Queen asking her to pardon those who were convicted of witchcraft and executed in Connecticut, as Connecticut was a British colony at the time. The Queen's office explained that they couldn't grant pardons, because they would need to reopen all the cases, and there just aren't enough [00:54:00] details existing in court records of those cases to do that. So the group connected with the Connecticut General Assembly and was able to get a resolution proposed in 2008. Unfortunately, this resolution to exonerate those accused, not pardon, but exonerate those accused, did not make it out of committee in 2008. It was brought up again the following year and again did not get out of committee. Sarah Jack: Time passed. Tony did not forget. Descendants did not forget. In 2016, Beth Caruso was doing an author talk on her book One of Windsor. Tony went to meet her and they decided to collaborate and renew [00:55:00] efforts to educate on the witch trials and to find a path to memorialization and clearing their names. They created the CT Witch Memorial Facebook page, where they have reported their research findings and commemorated what they know of those who were the victims. Josh Hutchinson: In 2017, the CT Witch Memorial group proposed a resolution in the town of Windsor to exonerate Alice Young and Lydia Gilbert, the two victims from Windsor, who were hanged. That resolution passed the Town Council by a vote of nine to zero, unanimously, and was quickly signed by the mayor into law. And you can see a copy of it at the Windsor Town Hall and another copy at the [00:56:00] Windsor Historical Society. And we'll also share that image on our social media. Sarah Jack: By the 375th anniversary of Alice Young's execution, which was May 26th, 2022, many individuals were asking and looking for the leadership of the state of Connecticut to start acknowledging this history, acknowledging Alice. The exoneration efforts of Elizabeth Johnson Jr. pushed it to a friendly boil, and several people came together to create the Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project. It was formed when state representative Jane Garibay got involved. She and Beth Caruso had previously looked at when would be a good time to [00:57:00] propose an acknowledgement bill. With all of these pieces coming together, it was decided that this was the year, and the resolution was written and proposed in the winter session. Josh Hutchinson: The Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project was co-founded by Mary-Louise Bingham, Sarah Jack, Tony Griego, Beth Caruso, and Josh Hutchinson, but has been contributed to by dozens of descendants, as well as others interested in seeing justice for these victims, including historians. 2023 has been an exciting year for the exoneration effort. In January, State Representative Jane Garibay and State Senator Saud Anwar both [00:58:00] proposed legislation in the House and the Senate at the General Assembly. The legislation was then referred to the Judiciary Committee, who wrote up the bill. The Judiciary Committee reviewed the bill, decided to take action on it, held a hearing on March 1st, where our own Sarah Jack and Beth Caruso and Tony Griego testified, along with others. There were many wonderful speakers that day. Sarah Jack: Those testimonies were full of great historical information and insights as to why an exoneration was relevant and needed. Josh Hutchinson: We believe that the hearing did sway some of the members of the Judiciary Committee to, drumroll, please. Thank you, Sarah. [00:59:00] Today the Judiciary Committee passed the resolution. It passed by a vote of 28 to 9, so there was widespread, bipartisan support for the resolution, which now will make its way onto the House and Senate calendars to get the full assembly's vote, which we're hoping will happen in April, possibly early May. Then the next step and final step in the process is for the governor to sign the bill, and we're hoping that does happen in May and that we all get to be there and celebrate. Sarah Jack: If you have written a legislator, we thank you. If you've intended to, you still have the chance. We still need all of them to give us yes votes. House, Senate, we need it. Josh Hutchinson: And now here's [01:00:00] Sarah with another edition of End Witch Hunts News. Sarah Jack: End Witch Hunts News. Here is your Connecticut Witch Trial exoneration bill update. Thank you for learning about the women of American Colony Witch trials. This Women's History month, we saw history made with the proposed resolution, HJ number 34. The Connecticut Legislature's Joint Committee on Judiciary heard testimony regarding the Joint Committee's proposed Bill HJ 34 Concerning Certain Witchcraft Convictions in Colonial Connecticut, and they have passed the resolution out of committee with bipartisan support. It was a 28 to 9 vote. This resolution identifies the specific individuals that were formally indicted for witchcraft crimes. This resolution identifies the individuals known to be executed for witchcraft crimes. Every person named in this resolution is historically recorded as being labeled a witch. The women tried in the colonial trials then proclaimed their own innocence, and the men did not listen. In fact, the men [01:01:00] insisted they confess to witchcraft. Understandably and unfortunately, some had their antagonized spirits broke and confessed to covenanting with the devil. Some even accused other men and women of covenanting with the devil. We want to clarify a few things. After someone who is a witch trial victim has been ostracized, it takes a family three to four generations to recover, and so the generational impact to the witch trial victim families carried on beyond the Revolution era. The relevance of historic witch trials can be seen when you consider the modern alleged witch attacks and the societal othering we witness. Today, more than 60 nations are having crisis level witch attacks. The Connecticut accused witches were accused of signing a compact with the devil. Their charges had nothing to do with modern paganism. Because compacting with the devil is not possible, we know those accused were innocent. Descendants seeking exoneration have come together in collaboration to tell the stories of their accused ancestors despite coming from different backgrounds, with different belief systems and political [01:02:00] leanings, this should not be a one-party bill. Granting exoneration does not mean other pressing issues are responded to less. Let's not avoid facing historical wrongs any longer. Correcting the historical record, like exonerating innocent victims of witch trials is the right thing to do. Today, I heard Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz state that she would like to see this and the other historical wrongs made right. She's willing to take the time to make things right. What we want is collaboration, not a pardon, an exoneration, because they were innocent. No reparations. We want the next steps after this to be memorials, educational programs, and Connecticut's recognition in this unique history. This Women's History Month, we have proclaimed their innocence, but has this message found a more receptive audience? Overall, that appears to be the case. We are encouraged to see legislators vote on the proposed bill, we are having record podcast episode downloads, and we are seeing the known facts reported more accurately by the media and likewise the public. On Monday, March 27th, the [01:03:00] Joint Committee on Judiciary passed HJ number 34 Resolution Concerning Certain Witchcraft Convictions in Colonial Connecticut. We thank the committee for coming together and taking the step. HJ 34 is a resolution to clear the names of the innocent Witch trial victims for descendants and everyone and anyone who cares about injustice now. The resolution has been submitted to the Legislative Commissioner's Office, and we anticipate the House and Senate will soon add the resolution to their calendars. We encourage the General Assembly to vote yes, and we urge Governor Lamont to sign. Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz is working with State Representative Jane Garibay and Senator Saud Anwar to raise awareness to the importance of voting on and passing this bill in the General Assembly. We must keep communicating. Will you take time today to write to a member of the House and Senate asking them to recognize the relevance of exonerating Connecticut Witch Trial victims? You can do this whether you are a Connecticut resident or anywhere else in the world. You should do it from right where you are. Now is the time and place to stand for acknowledging that women were not [01:04:00] and are not capable of harming others with diabolical or maleficent powers. The victims we wish to exonerate are known to be innocent. The victims of today that we wish to protect are known to be innocent. You can find the information you need to contact a legislator with a letter in the show links. The Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project strongly urges the General assembly to hear the voices of the witch trial victims being amplified by the community today. They were not witches. We hope you'll pass this legislation without delay. Our project is offering several ways for the exoneration supporters to plug in and participate or learn about the exoneration and history. Links to all these informative opportunities are listed in the episode description. Use your social power to help Alice Young, America's first executed witch, finally be acknowledged. Support the descendants by acknowledging and sharing their ancestors' stories. Contribute to making historical wrongs right. Please use all your communication channels to be an intervener and amplify the message. Please follow our project on social media @ctwitchhunt on [01:05:00] Twitter and visit our website at ConnecticutWitchTrials.org. We thank you for standing with us and helping us create a world that is safe from witchcraft accusations. Josh Hutchinson: Thank you, Sarah, for that important update about what's going on with the exoneration effort. Sarah Jack: What did you learn? Josh Hutchinson: What did I learn from this episode? That researching a bunch requires a lot of effort and looking through every available book and getting back to the primary source documents to confirm that the authors of the generally accepted books are on the right track with what their analysis is of those past events. You need to get to the source. As Margo Burns would [01:06:00] say, "how do we know what we know?" We need to know at all times how we know what we know about the historic past and not just replace knowledge with conjecture. Sarah Jack: Conjecture is something that seems to shroud witch trial knowledge and stories, and we have lots of sources to look at, and it's never a waste of time to take another look and just see it for yourself. They're available, and we need to look. New eyes, new times, new information, new records. It brings us back to the historic record and focusing on that. Josh Hutchinson: Yes, we're very much motivated by getting to the true facts. At the heart of any [01:07:00] proper analysis of these events, you have to know the truth. Otherwise, your analysis is gonna be flawed. Sarah Jack: And one of the truths that we know is how these victims were targeted and are innocent of these crimes. And evaluating that and talking about that is relevant because of what is still happening in our world today in over 60 nations, where women and children are being accused of causing misfortune through supernatural means. Josh Hutchinson: Still today, between the years 2009 and 2019, according to a very recent United Nations report, at least 20,000 incidents of witch hunting were reported in those 60 nations. And [01:08:00] also, the even more widespread problem has to do with accusations against children. According to the available data, every year, hundreds of thousands of children are abused, subjected to physical, emotional abuse based on the belief that they are actually practicing witches, children, young kids. It's shocking and appalling that this continues to happen, and we vow to throw everything we have at the problem and press for additional efforts to be made to end these violent mob attacks on persons accused of witchcraft. [01:09:00] Thank you for listening to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast. Sarah Jack: Join us next week for an expert interview. Josh Hutchinson: Subscribe to Thou Shalt Not Suffer wherever you get your podcasts. Sarah Jack: Thou Shalt Not Suffer Podcast is a project of the organization End Witch Hunts. Please support us by going to EndWitchHunts.org. Josh Hutchinson: Please support the efforts for Connecticut Witch Trial victim exoneration by going to ConnecticutWitchTrials.org. Sarah Jack: Get involved by visiting EndWitchHunts.org. To support us, purchase books from our bookshop or merch from our Zazzle shop. Our links are in the show description. Josh Hutchinson: Continue to follow us on social media, on Twitter, @ctwitchhunt and @thoupodcast. Sarah Jack: Share us with your circle of influence. Josh Hutchinson: And remember to tell all your friends, family, [01:10:00] acquaintances, neighbors, and childhood friends about Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast. Have a great today and a beautiful tomorrow.